Being an open-source programmer that uses Windows (and openly prefers it to any other operating system, Linux included) can cause you a bit of uneasiness in certain contexts. While using Windows can be frowned upon among other open-source programmer, sometimes it goes beyond that and I have to listen to endless minutes of dreadful techno-proselytism from people who, for some reason, believe that I have never opened a Linux box and that I should give it a try and that will inmediately change my whole life. Tired of hearing people asking me things like "how can you still use Windows instead of Linux?", "I do not understand how you can work with that..." and other similar ones, here is a detailed explanation of why I do what I do. Also, this is meant to serve as a reflection about open-source software and will give you some ideas about how I understand the open-source software movement and the software industry in general.
Here we go.
1)I like Windows.
This reason alone should suffice, since, basically, we all do what we like and it makes no sense to select the option that doesn't fulfill you expectations and leave aside the one that makes you happy. I spend a lot of hours in front of the computer and I prefer to do it using Windows than Linux. As simple as that. However, let me justify this with some more "professional" arguments.
As you might now, I take productivity very seriously in my work, up to the point of having no mouse or touchpad in my computer, since doing everything using the keyboard is way more productive (although it needs some training) for the kind of work that I do (that is, programming). I worked more or less one year with a Linux-only PC and my productivity was not as high as when using Windows. This is not something that I just "felt". If I was just coding, there was no difference, since I could use eclipse on both systems, but as soon as I did complex tasks involving several applications, I was less productive when using Linux. I benchmarked it using a couple of common tasks, and I concluded that, for some reason, I feel better on Windows and that it affects my productivity. It is just a matter of taste, just like some people drink coffee and others drink tea, or some listen to blues while others listen to classical music. So I am not saying that Windows is better, but just that, for me, it feels better. And I worked one year using only Linux, which I think is a long enough period of time to start comparing.
2)I run a highly tuned-up Windows.
Windows users are bad users, we all know that. They log-in with administrator priviledges and have difficulties doing common tasks. On the other hand Linux users have a great knowledge of their system, they have read a few books about it and read man pages for dozens of commands. However, not all Windows users are the same. Some of them, like myself, like to read about Windows, about how to use it properly, and with each new version of Windows check as much documentation as possible in order to find out the improvements of their operating system. And, for this reason, I can tweak my system just like any Linux user does and take the most out of it.
For instance, my computer has one administrator user but as many as five other user profiles, each of them adapted to a particular kind of work. And the "switch user" option is disabled, so changing the user requires to log off. My "working" profile makes it very easy to use eclipse but terribly hard to use any other application, so I have to concentrate on programming. The "general" user profile, on the other hand, has a one-letter shortcut for each application, so I can launch any application pressing [windows key] + R, typing one letter (c for Chrome, e for Eclipse...) and pressing Enter. The start menu is empty, so there is no way of launching apps otherwise. Another profile that I use for writing has no internet browser, since I never need that when I write, so I avoid unnecessary distractions.
Of course, you can do things like that on Linux, but how many of those saying "I cannot work on Windows" have ever taken the time to configure the system like that? Also, how many of them have the same skills on Windows as they do on Linux?. As a curious case, I can tell you of a professor that came to lecture to our university and said that he needed his Linux machine, since he liked to have several apps open along with his slides and change between them quickly, and that could be done only using several desktops in Linux, something that was not possible in Windows (he added a few adjectives here to make clear that he was convinced that Windows was a useless operating system). I was pleased to show him that the alt+tab key combination can be used to switch between open applications, and that it can be used both in Linux and Windows. He didn't know about it :-)
A fine-tuned installation of Linux is, for sure, better than an out-of-the-box installation of Windows, but not necessarily better that a properly configured Windows.
3) But Linux is free!!
I am sorry, but freedom itself is not a reason for using something. As much as I love the open-source philosophy, it is not enough to make me use something that makes me be less productive in my work and have (once angain, for me) a worse user experience. For die-hard Linux fans, that seems to be more that enough, as long as they keep fighting against the cruel, inhuman, proprietary software companies leaded by Micro$oft. Not my case, definitely.
It's funny to see how, however, most of these people buy books (thus supporting the way less-than-fair publishing companies) or records (empowering record labels and their long-ago outdated business model) while free alternatives exists. Of course, they prefer to listen to a contemporary rock band and read the latest techno-punk novel instead of downloading the complete recordings of jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton to their mp3-players or the complete works of Homer (written before copyright laws even existed), both of them in the public domain and freely available from a dozen of sites on the Internet. Why? Simply because they prefer their bands and writers and do not mind buying their works. Easy to understand. Now you go to point 1...
I also find it funny how we tend to think that a software distributed under a proprietary license has to be per-se a bad software. A brilliant piece of software can be distributed by a greedy company under draconian conditions, and still be technically awesome. For some reason, this seems to be difficult to understand when we speak about software, but not so much when we speak about music of literature. Metallica sued their fans for downloading their tunes using Napster, but no one (even those being sued) questioned them as probably the biggest metal band ever. They questioned them as persons, not as musicians. Similarly, no literary critic would question "Journey to the end of the night" as one of the finest novels of the XX century, although his author, Louis Ferdinand Céline, was a fascist that, along with his masterpiece, wrote quite a few anti-semitic pampleths. But, however, many people judge Windows not from a purely technical point of view after using it, but based on what they feel for Bill Gates or how much they detest the aggresive and stupid style of Steve Ballmer.
We should separate the software itself from the license, and specially, not asumme that being free makes a software better. Free software can be awful or it can be great, and it does not depend on its license but, most of all, on the programmers behind it. And, like it or not, there are awesome programmers on both sides of the proprietary vs free software world. Since this is a GIS blog, let me tell you a little secret. I get angry each time I hear about ArcGIS licenses and, specially, how the spanish distributor deals with them. Their policy is, to say it mildly, disgusting, But, regarding the software itself, I absolutely love it and would kill for having a look at its source code. The programmer in me likes to look at sofware as something with no license at all, just like a technical element not linked to any social or economical element.
I hope that this long post has helped you think a bit about this interesting topic...
Comment are welcome :-)